I love it when forgotten ideas return, especially the ones I’ve shrugged off as “surely doomed,” and then they reappear as great stuff.

That’s how Scotch whisky got into my Saratoga cocktail.

The first time I wrote about the Saratoga, it crossed my mind to try it with other spirits, particularly Scotch. Without much deep thought, I wrote it off as not a “proper” Saratoga, and, more to the point, a really bad-sounding combination that couldn’t possibly work.

Fast forward to last weekend, when I was trying to come up with a good cocktail for a straight Scotch drinker. Maybe it’s because I was in a Manhattan kind of mood that the Saratoga came to mind; this time, the idea of making it with Scotch seemed like a natural experiment.

And humbled once again by preconceived notions, I’m here to tell you it worked great.

Saratoga Cocktail (Scotch), photo © 2011 Douglas M. Ford. All rights reserved.
The Saratoga Cocktail (Scotch)

Not as round nor as sweet as the original rye version, this Scotch variant shows off the classic Scotch whisky characteristics—particularly the dry maltiness and slight, peaty smokiness—but it rounds off the sharp edges with the brandy and vermouth to make a delightful aperitif cocktail.

The Scotch Saratoga

  • 1 oz Blended Scotch (Famous Grouse)
  • 1 oz brandy (Remy Martin VSOP)
  • 1 oz Sweet Vermouth (Boissiere, Carpano Antica)
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice until very cold; strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Optionally garnish with lemon, or not at all.

The Famous Grouse has become my standard blending Scotch, and I haven’t tried this with other brands or styles. I would recommend that you use your favorite, though I suspect that strongly peated whiskies may not work as well as the lighter styles.

As with the original rye Saratoga, I find that the Carpano Antica-style of vermouth blends best in this drink. I was delighted to discover that Boissiere’s sweet vermouth makes a terrific Saratoga with either rye or Scotch, and it is much less expensive and more readily available (in my market.)

(And I’m happy to report that the straight Scotch drinker liked this one, too…)